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Now is the budget of our discontent…
(with apologies to the Bard…)
The “March in May” protesters were sitting at the corner of George and Lee Street, arms linked peacefully.
Riot police had already encircled them and a police officer with a rank I didn’t recognise yelled into a squad car’s loudspeaker about a law they were apparently breaking.
The March in May had made its way down to Victoria Park at this point, but these people had remained. Some wore Guy Fawkes masks to disguise their faces. The crowd chanted, “We can’t hear you, we can’t hear you”.
They were right – the officer’s voice had been drowned out.
Abruptly the police officer stopped talking and at least two dozen riot police in dark blue uniforms descended on the sitting group.
They pulled people of the floor and began dragging them away.
The crowd yelled its displeasure; a throaty cry of discontent.
A group of four protesters sat hunched facing each other, their arms linked in a chain. Five cops muscled up to them, and at least one officer started to throw his knees heavily into an incompliant body. There was no struggling from the protesters; they became dead weight in the arms of the police as a form of passive resistance.
The riot police broke the crowd in two and pushed it back. One prodded me in the chest continuously even as I told him calmly that I was squashed. I felt my shoe connect with a protester’s knee and I turned my head to see another group of four sitting in a line, arms linked.
The police officer kept pushing me so I said, “I don’t want to step on them”.
He then basically pushed me around to the side of them and said, “Ok now you’re clear”.
There isn’t really a neat conclusion to this story.
With the budget being such an issue of contention, further proest is inevitable.
What I witnessed on Sunday was not what I expected.
With further protests such as March in June already planned, it seems likely that there is more conflict to come.